Saturday, August 05, 2006

A book meme

Greensmile asked whether the word “meme” comes from “Me me!” Susan Blackmore, who studies memes and writes extensively about them, might agree that it does, in a way.

A meme is an idea that spreads. That's my working definition, a model I find useful. It's an inexact copy of Susan Blackmore's definition. Meme ideas spread by imitation, by exact copying and inexact copying. Memes can be melodies, catch-phrases, stories, clothing fashions, and ways of making pots. Many memes spread unintentionally in the course of casual conversation and story-telling. Bloggers deliberately spread some memes as ways to inspire new posts.

I like this particular blog meme. It offers opportunities to think about books that influence our lives.

1. One book that changed your life?

The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn.

Ishmael would have worked, too, but it was not on the library shelf that day. Both are entry points to a library of astonishing insights into our culture's operation.

2. One book you have read more than once?

The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner. It was also the book that changed my life the first time, and one of many that created a context to understand and to value the ideas of Daniel Quinn, Peter Senge, and George Lakoff.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Some big, thick anthology of relatively recent literature, such as the one I bought for an American Lit class a couple of decades ago.

A number of meme writers already have mentioned practical books about desert island survival. I'll figure out the edible plants by cautious tasting. I'd rather share an indefinite future with e e cummings and Stephen Crane and Mark Twain.

4. One book that made you laugh?

The River Why, by David James Duncan. I'd quote some funny bits, but my copy is loaned out.

5. One book that made you cry?

That I don't remember distinctly. But this might be a good time to mention The Cider House Rules, by John Irving.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Initially I misread that as a book I wish I, personally, had written. And that would be Meet Me in the Moon Room, by Ray Vukcevich. I can't even describe how wonderfully Vukcevich writes, but this guy tries...

As for a book that should have been written by somebody, anybody, how about What If This New Way of Life Doesn't Work Out?, by Jared Diamond's great great 500-generations-ago grandmother.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

To mention it would be to spread its meme. Why dignify it?

Other meme writers have mentioned books that seem to inspire legions of readers to behave badly. We all know the adage about judging books by their covers. I do find some value in judging books by their readers.

8. One book you are currently reading?

I sometimes borrow a backpack full of books at one time from a nearby university library. The nonfiction ones I graze for good ideas. The fiction I read to be impressed by writing style, such as The Toughest Indian in the World, by Sherman Alexie.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work, by Debra Meyerson.

10. Now tag five some other people...

Chris H.

John Kessel, science fiction author and SF critic and NC State professor. He's not likely to see this, and his web site isn't really a blog, but memes are often inexact copies...

11. (These go to eleven.) What about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

Indeed. Now we are enlightened.


Want to check out a book before buying? Please support your local library. (And don't forget about inter-library loans.)



Ron Hudson said...

Interestingly, or not, the French word for "same" is même...and I immediately thought of it in terms of origin of the term. I guess I was off base.

Laurie said...

I think that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the first book that really made me think about living consciously as if every action mattered. I used to be in bookstore management and I once hired a store manager solely based on her answer that this was her favorite book. She was a waitress and had no management experience but I was right.

I continue to be pointed in Quinn's direction so I'm going to have to read him when I ever get a chance to choose my reading material again! Thanks for this list.

GreenSmile said...

That was refreshing! and now I go to the library!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tag, my response is up.